Concepts by Benjamin Baugh
By far the most requested rule expansion for the first edition Window was a standardized magic system. Roleplaying was born out of the fantasy genre, and no matter how far we've come from those first faltering steps, it seems that there is always something calling us back to those realms of wizardry where anything is possible. The following rules provide guidelines for using magic with the Window.
The Precepts of Magic
Like the Window's three precepts from which these are derived, the precepts of magic provide a core philosophy for the use of magic in any anthology. These precepts (in addition to the three essential precepts of the Window itself) help provide a practical way of dealing with magic in a mature, story affirming manner.
The First Precept of Magic:
"Magic must be an extension of character."
Magic must reflect in all its aspects the character who invokes it, his mental state, situation, and outlook. The actor in a magically active role must be willing to take the extra steps required to define his character's power in his own terms. No two magicians will be exactly the same, and thus no two magical methodologies will ever be exactly the same. Styles may be similar, you can have any number of elementalists say, but each will have a unique take on the common magics. If magic ever begins to overshadow character, then it must be reassessed. Magic should not distract from the character's essential core, but should enhance it. The character's powers must be woven into his background and taken into account when defining his personality. Magic shapes the character and is shaped by him.
The Second Precept of Magic:
"Magic must advance the story."
Like any aspect of a maturely played character, magic must advance the story to the satisfaction of all involved. Too often actors refuse to be flexible in their interpretation of their character's actions and it destroys group coherency-- few things can disrupt a troupe faster than one member who employs his magics irresponsibility. Magic should never overshadow the wielding character and should also never overshadow the other actors. Magic has a place in all fantastic stories, and it is the responsibility of the actor and storyteller to reach an understanding of that place. The actor should be willing to adjust his character's sorcery to fit the story and the Storyteller should make allowances for well roleplayed magics even if it requires some alterations to the plot. In short, the Storyteller should be careful not to steal the character's thunder and the player should be responsible enough not to abuse her character's power.
The Third Precept of Magic:
"Magic must never become routine."
Magic must always be... well... magical. A sword will kill a man,
even do it with style, but nothing is quite so awe inspiring in
personal combat as Lodendrake's Cage of Spines. Magic is really
just special effects, and any good movie director knows you can
only use a certain effect so many times before the audience begins
to take it for granted. Players should be rewarded for producing
interesting, vital, and original effects with their mystic powers.
Certain effects may be used repeatedly so as to deliberately make
them routine, but only for a specific purpose such as to advance
the Second Precept in character development, or in story development as dictated
by the Third Precept.
How it Works
Characters who wish to employ magic must start by defining their basic ability to use it. This is represented by an additional inherent trait which the Storyteller might call wizardry, witchcraft, sorcery, or faith, depending on the world. For the purposes of this discussion it will simply be called magic.
This trait plays an important role in the application of spells and rituals. When a magic user summons mystic power he forms it by using his natural potential (represented by the magic trait) and the techniques which he has developed through training or talent (represented by more specific spell skills). He may employ one of his old comfortable spells, or he may take risks or desperate measures and improvise an enchantment. During character creation, the actor invents the specific spell skills. What is required is a detailed description of each and a realistic evaluation of their parameters.
Understand that there are as many possible areas of magical endeavor as there are practitioners, and many more besides. No comprehensive list is possible. It's up to the Storyteller to give you an understanding of how magic works in the world, then within those guidelines you must strive to create a character image which is your own.
For example, if you are creating a priest character you must first choose the deity your character is connected with and weave this all important choice into his background. When did the first great epiphany of connection occur? How has it altered his experiences? His outlook? Make sure your choice of deity lends itself to the character's development and is not just done for the neat abilities. Now record the sorts of spells he's mastered. When were they first realized? First used? Detail the exact relationship the priest has with his god and consider the spells in this context. Before finishing you have to define a competency adjective and rung for his magic trait and for each spell.
Once you have defined your character's magic trait and spells, you're ready to play. Spell rolls are used for activating well known effects, while the magic trait is used for maintaining spells, resisting magical attacks, and crafting variations (or entirely new spells) on the fly.
The Storyteller uses his best judgment to determine the difficulty
of a given magical task, taking into account the creativity of
the player, the needs of the story, and the individual situation.
Following the Third Precept of Magic, it's up to you to describe
your character's magic as richly as possible. When adjudicating
magical conflict, the Storyteller should use the philosophy that
the specific and unique will always win out against the vague
Just like health and sanity, your character's magic trait can drop competency rungs if she is using it a great deal or is up against a particularly draining challenge. The Storyteller can ask for such magic rolls whenever it makes sense in the story. The idea is to represent the oftentimes fatiguing nature of handling mystical power.
The means by which your character regains her magic depends on the world and her particular kind of magic.
If your character's magic drops completely off the competency ladder then she is totally drained. At that point she can still use magic, but all magic rolls are made on a D30 and any further drops in magical competency effect her health trait instead. It is very possible for a magic user to kill themselves by pushing it too far.